SMITHVILLE — Smithville Area Fire Protection District crews responded to fewer calls for service in 2019 compared to the year before. Down from 1,220 in 2018, Chief Dave Cline said there were 1,155 calls for service in 2019.
“SAFD responded to six building fires, down from 14 in 2018,” Cline said. “The constant raining in the spring of 2019 kept the grass and brush fires abnormally low at only 15 for the year, compared to the hot and dry conditions in 2018 that brought 62.”
Cline said during “regular” weather conditions, calls for fires typically match statistics from 2017 and 2016, with calls for service ranging between 35 to 45 for the year.
While the overall call volume was down for the district, calls for medical emergencies had a slight uptick in 2019 with 661, compared to 654 in 2018. Firefighters and EMTs also responded to 90 motor vehicle accidents in 2019, compared to 76 in 2018.
Additionally, the district had 76 instances of overlapping runs, meaning additional calls for service occurred while firefighters were on scene at another incident. Despite this number, which is comparable to 2018 with 79 overlapping incidents in 2019, Cline said the district managed to lower its average response time from 9 minutes and 35 seconds in 2018 to 7 minutes and 45 seconds in 2019.
Cline attributed this decrease to a statistical anomaly. Many of the calls were geographically closer coming from around the U.S. Highway 169 corridor, he said.
Improvements in 2019 & 2020
Beyond responding to emergencies, Smithville firefighters participated in 85 community events such as parades and Santa at the Fire Station, resulting in crew members having contact with more than 2,300 adults and 3,400 children.
Equipment upgrades in 2019 included purchase of a 2,000-gallon tanker truck for the currently unmanned station No. 3 near Paradise in addition to new breathing apparatuses for firefighters in the district. The apparatuses had not been replaced since 2004.
This year, the district will seek a tax increase on the November ballot in hopes of getting voters to approve funding for staff at station No. 3.
“Currently, the district staffs station No. 2 with 12 full-time firefighters; four personnel assigned to three shifts working 48 hours on, 96 hours off,” Cline said. “With the passage of the 35-cent tax increase, ... the fire district will phase in hiring an additional 15 personnel; 12 to staff station No. 3 and three supervisor positions. Without a tax increase, it is unknown if or when the district will be able to add personnel.”
Cline added the district has short-term goals to continue training and professional development for existing firefighters. In 2019, firefighters completed 3,329 hours of training.
The district is also looking to partner with the city of Smithville to begin testing and mapping fire hydrants. Both efforts, Cline said, lower the district’s fire insurance rating, which translates to lower insurance costs for property owners in the district.
”As the fire chief, I am very proud of the current state and direction of the Smithville Area Fire Protection District,” Cline said. “We have great firefighters who genuinely love serving our community. We appreciate the solid support of our community and our board of directors.”